Occupational Health News Roundup

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs save energy, but the mercury in them has to be handled with lots of caution – and that’s not always the case in the Chinese factories that manufacture a large share of the bulbs. Michael Sheridan Reports for the Sunday Times (UK)

In southern China, compact fluorescent lightbulbs destined for western consumers are being made in factories that range from high-tech multinational operations to sweat-shops, with widely varying standards of health and safety. 

Tests on hundreds of employees have found dangerously high levels of mercury in their bodies and many have required hospital treatment, according to interviews with workers, doctors and local health officials in the cities of Foshan and Guangzhou.

Sheridan suggests that litigation might spur improvements, noting that a Beijing court will for the first time hear a cae from a plaintiff seeking compensation for mercury poisoning (though it’s not related to lightbulb manufacturing). 

In other news: 

Fort Worth Star Telegram: 34-year-old Robert Harrell was suffocated to death when the sides of a 15-foot trench in which he was working collapsed; according to the city’s assistant fire chief, the trench wall was not properly secured. (Celeste is quoted in this article and in the one preceding it, which also noted that approximately two dozen workers have died in trench collapses since the start of 2008.) 

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Veterans’ health centers are seeing a surge in Vietnam veterans seeking help for health conditions they believe are connected to their military service, including illnesses that have been linked to Agent Orange exposure. 

Las Vegas Sun: After twelve construction-worker deaths a major push to address dangerous conditions on construction sites, the Nevada Legislature’s response – a requirement for 10 hours of safety training and investigation-related notification of family members whose loved ones die in workplace accidents – is less than what many had hoped for. 

CNN: Six lawsuits have been filed and three more are scheduled to be filed against defense contractor KBR and its former parent company, Halliburton, claiming the companies’ unsafe use of burn pits endangered the health of U.S. troops and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: As the Triple Crown racing season begins, it’s a good time to remember that jockeys and other employees of the horseracing industry have particular safety concerns. Requirements for personal protective equipment in the industry vary from state to state.

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